ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
31 August 2002


As official after official lines up to do the US's bidding - Jacques Diouf of the FAO is the latest - the neo-colonial attitudes and agenda of US AID, and behind it the Bush administration, comes into ever sharper focus:

"What is sad is not that we are letting people starve ˜ we are not. What is sad is people taking advantage of the desperate situation and forcing people to eat what they don't want to eat," Zambian scientist, Dr Mwananyanda Lewonika.

1. Greenpeace, Zambia reject U.S. claim
2. Corporatisation of the Seeds of life - WSSD press release
3. Protesters attack GM food aid at Earth Summit


1. Greenpeace, Zambia reject U.S. claim


JOHANNESBURG ˜ Greenpeace and the Zambian delegation to the U.N. World Summit on Sustainable Development yesterday rejected American claims that they were letting people starve through misplaced concern over U.S.-supplied genetically modified corn.

U.S. foreign aid chief Andrew Natsios on Thursday criticized environmental groups as "revolting and despicable" for urging starving nations such as Zambia to reject American corn because of genetic alteration.

U.S. officials said all American corn is mixed, with about 30 percent genetically modified, and that all U.S. citizens, including President Bush, have been eating the mixture for six years without ill effects.

Greenpeace, which along with Friends of the Earth was identified by U.S. officials as involved in campaigning against using genetically modified food in famine relief, denied it had exercised any influence over the Zambian authorities.

Its political officer, Remi Parmentier, told The Washington Times yesterday: "I would like to throw this American accusation on its head."

      He said the U.S. refusal to sign the Kyoto agreement on climate change has subjected millions of Africans and other citizens of developing countries to life-threatening danger.

Greenpeace official Doreen Stabinsky said the group has not taken a public stand on genetically modified imports to feed hungry people because it's a delicate issue.  "It is arrogant to tell the Zambians what food they must accept," she said.

A Zambian scientist at the conference, known as the Earth Summit, also criticized Mr. Natsios' remarks.

"What is sad is not that we are letting people starve ˜ we are not," he said. "What is sad is people taking advantage of the desperate situation and forcing people to eat what they don't want to eat," Mwananyanda Lewonika said.

U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization Director Jacques Diouf yesterday asked drought-hit southern African countries not to bar genetically modified food aid, saying the best available evidence determined it was safe.

The United Nations therefore believes that in the current crisis, governments in southern Africa must consider carefully the severe and immediate consequences of limiting food aid available for millions of people so desperately in need," Mr. Diouf said: "Their plight must weigh heavily on government decision-making."

An estimated 13 million people face the threat of famine in southern Africa, and 300,000 people could die of starvation in the next six months, the United Nations says.  But three countries affected by the crisis - Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe - have raised health and environmental concerns over the longer-term effects of genetically modified corn donated as emergency food aid.

Zambia recently said it no longer would allow genetically modified food into the country.

Mr. Lewonika, the Zambian scientist, said his government was right in seeking alternative corn imports from China, South Africa and Tanzania because no one was dying yet from starvation in his country.  He said no supplies from these sources had arrived, while many tons of U.S. corn lay in warehouses.

Many activists at the conference have been urging Zambia and others to turn away American corn.


2. Earth life Africa : PRESS RELEASE

28 August 2002, World Summit on Sustainable Development

Earthlife Africa, joins a growing number of small holder farmers and members of civil society, religious groups and scientists in opposing the dissemination and commercialization of genetically engineered seeds, crops, plants and livestock. This technology fails to meet the precautionary principle as it has not been conclusively and independently  proven safe for humans, health and the environment. Through gene leakage and horizontal gene transfer, genetically engineered genes can contaminate both related and unrelated species. For centuries farmers have followed a tradition of saving, adapting and exchanging seeds to promote biodiversity and food security. The patenting of genetic engineered seeds is a direct threat to and violation of the rights of farmers to save, use and share their agricultural resources. If farmers lose control over their seeds they lose control over their farming systems.

ELA is appalled that the poverty and hunger of the Southern African region is being used to justify GMOs food aid and as a way of introducing genetically engineered seeds into our region.  We are extremely concerned with the claims made by the Biotech companies, that genetically engineered seeds and crops will ensure food security. This technological strategy fails to understand that food sovereignty is based on the control of the food production process. International trade policies that are designed to protect intellectual property rights pose a critical threat to food security within the region.

Earthlife Africa is extremely concerned with the way in which the South African government has embraced genetic engineering and is actively promoting the establishment of a biotechnology industry in South Africa despite the growing international call for a moratorium on the use of GMOs. Earthlife Africa supports the call for further investigations to determine the environmental, health and safety risks posed by this technology to South Africa and the region. Whilst the majority of African countries adopt the precautionary approach,  South Africa continues to approve open GE field trials including apple, canola, potato, soybean and tomato as well as allowing commercial plantings of insect resistant (Bt) GE cotton and maize over a considerable part of the country. South African legislation governing GMO‚s has blatantly flouted both the precautionary principle and polluter pays principle embodied in our National Environmental Management Act (NEMA).

Earthlife Africa (ELA) is a Southern African volunteer driven environmental activist organisation concerned with issues of environmental and social justice and has been campaigning for sustainable development since 1988.

Earthlife Africa calls for...
·       Governments to ratify and implement multilateral agreements that provide a regulatory framework for sustainable development. The Agreements include the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the Cartegena Biosafety Protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.
·       A ban on the introduction of 'Terminator or Genetic Use Restriction Technology', the controversial genetic engineering that deliberately sterilises crops.
·       A ban on the 'patents on life'
·       Strict liability resulting from trans-boundary movements.
·       Recognition of indigenous/traditional knowledge systems and protection of the rights of resource poor farmers
·       A moratorium on the release of GMO‚s into the environment until sufficient research has been undertaken in accordance with the precautionary principle
·       Full responsibility from the corporations who develop GE technology for the impact of the general release and spread of genetically engineered organisms
·       Investment in research into non corporate local sustainable agriculture and independent enquiries into the future of agriculture and food security to enhance local food sovereignty.
·       Strengthening of the role of the precautionary principle embodied in the Rio Declaration and ensure biosafety legislation takes precedence over WTO/ NEPAD / AGOA / NAFTA and other trade based rules and agreements .
·       Reduce the influence of the WTO and the dominance of trade discussion at the WSSD 2002.
·       Ensure that this Summit Agenda is about people and their dependence on the environment.

Issued on behalf of Earthlife Africa (eThekwini) by Helene Epstein
Tel: 082 8684437 (South Africa)


3. Protesters attack GM food aid at Earth Summit
[CBC: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation]
Last Updated Sun, 25 Aug 2002 17:53:03

JOHANNESBURG - South African police fired stun grenades into a crowd they said was protesting illegally Saturday just days before the international Earth Summit.

The 600 demonstrators were calling for more action from world leaders to reduce global warming and poverty.

They had been holding a candlelight march when police opened fire. Authorities have warned people that protests will not be tolerated near the summit site.

Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and 65,000 other delegates are scheduled to attend the World Summit on Sustainable Development, which opens Monday in Johannesburg.

The meeting has been compared to the Olympics of world politics. Organizers say they want to protect the Earth's environment, and to rescue billions of people from wretched poverty.

But a controversy has already erupted over the use of donated food being sent to South African countries ravaged by famine.

The food contains grain from genetically modified crops that cannot be separated from the non-GM varieties. The United States is the biggest donor to the aid program, and it does not differentiate between crops that have been altered and those that haven't.

The UN's World Food Programme has told Zambia to stop objecting to GM food or risk the lives of 2.5 million people.

"If your trade-off is that a million people are going to starve to death, and you have something that could be a potential risk 20 years down the road, that's where the moral dilemma comes in," said Judith Lewis, regional director for East and Southern Africa.

The Zambian government did not immediately respond to the WFP statement. Information Minister Newsted Zimbia has expressed concerns about the safety of GM foods before.

 U.S. doesn't separate GM grain from non-GM varieties

Anti-GM food activists have defended the country's right to decide what its citizens eat. David Fig of the organization BioWatch said undesirable food is being foisted on Southern Africa.

Fig said European governments and consumers have refused to import or eat GM foods.

"In my view, (these GM crops) are being dumped on those countries because of reasons internal to the U.S."

The WFP denies the charge.

Zimbabwe has expressed fears GM grain could sprout, cross-fertilize the country's domestic varieties and be rejected for import to European countries.

Mozambique is also unhappy about GM food aid, but it has crafted a compromise by arranging to have the grain milled before the food is passed on to the hungry.

Milling reduces the chances of contaminating local crops.

Written by CBC News Online staff
Food stocks are running out across Southern Africa

'Asked if people were going "too far" by saying that gene-altered humanitarian exports were part of a strategy to spread the crops around the world, Harl [Neil E. Harl, a professor of economics at Iowa State University] said: "I'm not sure that is going too far." ' - Starved for Food, Zimbabwe Rejects U.S. Biotech Corn, Washington Post, July 31, 2002

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